A Modern Woman on the Move

in hot pursuit of the great green light…

Dealing with regular, public harassment.. You know, just because I am a “Bitch.”

with 3 comments

I want to let comedian friends know that, last night, Jon and I left the Suki’s open mic early because a man who has verbally harassed me and other women at the Boiler Room for *years* happened to be at Suki’s.

I kind of freaked out when I realized he was there because a few months ago, when he was being verbally harassing and demeaning toward me at the Boiler Room, after the open mic and during some fun karaoke, I made fun of him back, in the middle of the song I was singing. I basically said, “Look man, I have seen you for years here at the Boiler Room, harassing me and other women, drunkenly, being demeaning and hostile for in person, while also singing songs about slapping bitches and being gangster. Yet, here you are still, getting drunk alone and angry. Put two-and-two together and stop being angry at women, you’re drunk and alone because you’re a horrible person.” He proceeded to get very angry and try to escalate the situation further, making remarks about how I was dressed, saying I oughtta get slapped, etc. The bar staff asked us to both calm down and stop, but, the next week, when I wasn’t there approached Jon and asked him to tell his lady friend (me) not to be starting problems with people.

This was incredibly frustrating to both of us because… A) How has the bar staff, who sees this guy more often than I ever have, not realized that the issue is this guy’s aggressive and horrible personality? Well, maybe because he often directs it at women, but have they seriously missed every time that I have seen him being harassing, demeaning, and aggressive to their female customers? B) If they think I was the problem, why the heck are they talking to Jon about it? Because they perceive that he is my boyfriend? It makes him feel like he’s in the middle of it, when he’s not the one who even said the thing to the problem guy, I was, and in response to him harassing me.

So, last night, as Jon and I were at the bar to order a beer for him and a tea for me, I see this guy who I honestly and truly find scary, and I start feeling scared. I feel I should be tougher than that, but I was not at all imagining seeing this guy there, I tap Jon on the shoulder and exclaim something like, “This guy?! This guy is here, Jon! Crap, what is this guy doing here??” Admittedly, all while saying this, I was obviously pointing at him.

It’s our turn to order at the bar, so I turn to talk to the really nice and awesome bartender that usually works Suki’s on Tuesdays, during the open mic. My adrenalin is pumping, my heart is racing, so I decide to say something ahead of time, “Hey, just so you know, there is a guy here that has repeatedly verbally harassed me at another bar, as well as other women…” He asked who, I turn around behind me to point to the guy out, turn back around and say, “Can you just keep an eye out for him, because he is really aggressive and…”

Then I am interrupted by none other than the problem guy, who has walking up next to the bar on the stairs next to and just above me, and loudly announces something to the tune of, “Hey, these people,” pointing to Jon (standing behind me) and myself, “have a problem with me, but you just keep them away from me and we’ll be fine!” There was a quick back and forth in which I think the bartender and Jon try to tell him to go sit down, while I say something to the tune of “You’re are the person that has been consistently harassing me, dude.” He walks away then I try to order my drink, but, at this point I am shaking and tearing up. The bartender’s tone is uncomfortable and seems, to me, slightly apologetic as he asks what kind of tea I want…

After all this, Jon and I sat back down at our table, but I am past the point of feeling safe or comfortable enough to stay and I can’t seem to stop crying or shaking, probably just from the adrenalin. I go outside to try to collect myself, but I feel more freaked out before not, Jon isn’t sure what to do and tries to be present with me despite the fact that I am freaked out. When I finally calm down enough, Jon and I decide to leave, but not before I go back to the bar to tell the bouncer at the door of Suki’s (who has always seemed like a nice guy) that I am leaving because of that guy and to explain why.

The bouncer at Suki’s is really awesome about it. He says something along the lines of “I would hate to see you guys leave because of one guy, I can keep an eye on him if you want to try to stay,” as well as a few other supportive things. He seems to be caring and listening. I thank him and explain that I am already too upset to stay this time, but that what he is saying really helps and that I will probably feel safer and less surprised if I ever see him there again, so maybe I will be able to stay.

I think that part of why I got so scared was because I was not prepared to deal with this guy’s really aggressive bullying, I was completely caught off guard. I have been to the Boiler Room without further incident since the time that problem guy had gotten extra aggressive to me because I responded to his harassing remarks, but only because I go there if I am feeling strong enough to deal with ignoring any harassment throne my way.

Walking into Suki’s yesterday, I had just been having a lovely day with Jon, having gone to help the filming that at IPRC, then to Nerd Night to see friends, then planning on enjoying the Suki’s open mic. I had only mentally prepared myself to try to ignore the few ridiculously racist and sexist jokes that inevitably occur at comedy open mics (but that is another post entirely, isn’t it?), not full blown harassment directed at me.

I also wanted to point out that this problem guy’s harassment toward me started out as “complimentary.” He made remarks about me looking hot at the Boiler Room, made remarks about wanting to “do somethin’ with [my] ass,” and so on for the first handful of times. Each time I was dismissive, either through ignoring him or being like, “Uh, no.” Over time, he became more aggressive and more negative. The last occasion, when I really responded to his demeaning in length, he even suggested violence. Yet the bar staff/bouncers at Boiler Room acted as though I was the instigator. Perhaps they lacked the ongoing context, but the context of that night should have been enough, I think. Woman in the karaoke bar is singing, man says demeaning things, women stops singing to insult him back, man retaliates with further remarks including a statement of physical violence.

I fully know that, in his mind, I began insulting him when I did not respond favorably and appreciatively to his sexually harassing “compliments.” And, just for the sake of linking it, there was recently an astute article on cracked.com explaining at least 5 Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women.  Like many cracked.com articles, however, it did not go on to discuss what you or other men can do about it. I hope that writing about a personal experience gets some men that I know thinking more about what it can feel like to be experiencing harassment, randomly or regularly, and what they can do about it.

It is frustrating to deal with harassing situations because, sometimes, it feels like being a woman means you have to put on armor (physical and/or emotional) before going somewhere or doing something or just being yourself. The things is, being a woman should not mean that you have to put on armor before going somewhere or doing something or just being yourself. 

The reality is that people should just be behaving better. No matter who you are talking to, what gender the person you are talking to is, and no matter what a person is wearing when you see them.

If you like to wear short skirts, you may find yourself thinking, “Should I put this on today, and I prepared to deal with catcalling?” I find myself thinking that, even though I know that social records and studies have shown that what you wear has nothing to do with whatever verbal harassment or sexual assault you may experience (http://www.voicesandfaces.org/rape.asphttp://pathwayscourses.samhsa.gov/vawp/vawp_supps_pg11.htmhttp://www.rainn.org/statisticshttp://www.stopstreetharassment.org/http://www.cwfefc.org/svfacts.htmlhttp://www.mencanstoprape.org/Resources/http://www.ncur20.com/presentations/14/1474/paper.pdf). The facts of the matter indicate that I am likely to encounter sexual harassment or assault just based on the fact that I am a woman. Yet, I still fight the urge to blame myself for how men treat me, fully knowing many facts about verbal harassment, sexual assault, and rape….

In case you don’t click on any of the above links, some potentially meaningful facts to think about regarding how unsafe it can feel to be a women in our society include:

– Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.
– 4 out of 5 students (81%) have experienced some from of sexual harassment during their school years.
–  When asked, “Have you ever been harassed (such as verbal comments, honking, whistling, kissing noises, leering/staring, groping, stalking, attempted or achieved assault, etc) while in a public place like the street, on public transportation, or in a store?” Ninety-nine percent of the 225  respondents, which included some men, said they had been harassed at least a few times. Over 65 percent said they were harassed on at least a monthly basis.
– 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail.
– 38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.
– 1 out of 6 women have been victims of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime.
– Rapists are more likely to be a serial criminal than a serial rapist.

I wanted to share this because I felt embarrassed at reacting so negatively and needing to leave, though I know that I am not the one who should feel embarrassed, the harassing guy is the one who should feel embarrassed. The thing is, he probably will never understand that his behavior is not okay because he hangs out at places where people enable him to be a harassing and demeaning person or just have a blind eye to it (apparently, places like the Boiler Room) and  he probably doesn’t remember half of his behavior. I hope that talking about it might help create a safer environment through shared awareness.

When you are a person that has experienced violence in your life, especially from abusive men, it is harder to brush off a random guy at the bar who says things like “Bitch, you oughtta shut up before you get slapped…”  I hope that explaining this kind of horrible and behavior will help more men tune into how the men around them may be creating an unsafe environment for their female friends and how they may be enabling it… Or simply not noticing it because it’s not directed at them.

If you are a guy and you want to think more about how to be a good ally to women in the face of harassment, assault, and rape, consider checking out http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/male-allies/

And, think about some of these helpful intervention tips for males who want to be apart of the solution, not the problem: http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/male-allies/bystander-tips/

Here is a kind of cheesy-but-awesome video of how you can respond when you see other men making women uncomfortable….

Written by lovemotionstory

April 11, 2012 at 4:38 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Thing what pisses me off is the dudes working at those places, even when they were being nice, is that all they did was offer to keep an eye on that guy. Any place I work, that guy is getting 86’d for life at the first instance. There’s no room for that anywhere. Sorry you have to deal with this.

    That said, Boiler Room seems to be full of awful people anyway, so I stear clear. Looks like the staff there likes it that way.

    Luke M

    April 11, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    • Well, last night was the first time I was seeing him at Suki’s, so they people who worked there didn’t have much to really go on yet, except that I was freaked out and talking to them about him. He did walk up and interrupt, but I don’t know if that is reasonably grounds for 86’ing. I think that, if I were the bartender dealing with him and me, I would have felt like he was already instigating and escalating, being really loud and dismissive. I would have challenged him to be quiet and then asked if he understood that he was making a person uncomfortable and to stop talking over people.

      I don’t have any defense for the Boiler Room bartenders/bouncers on their enabling of this guy, however, it’s like they are so blind they don’t see it or so apathetic that they don’t care.


      April 11, 2012 at 11:50 pm

  2. I should note that the person doing the harassing in this story is not a comedian… Or, at least, not as far as I know.


    April 12, 2012 at 1:51 am

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